Controversy About Abraham Lincoln's First Emancipation Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3426 words)  ·  Style: Turabian  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

Controversy Over Lincoln's First Emancipation

The Strategy Behind Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

Slavery is in conflict with Democracy," many players within the American political scene of the Civil War were strong opponents of the institution of slavery. In 1863, then president Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively freeing the slaves currently held in the rebellious Confederate States. Lincoln had initially met much resistance in his goal to rid the nation of the institution of slavery based on the allocation of such decisions left to the states. However, the inevitable Civil War provided Lincoln with his opportunity to reach his goals through morphing it into an effective military strategy aimed at solidifying the Union while going for the Achilles' heel of the Southern economy and military might. Under martial law, Lincoln ensured himself complete power to make such controversial executive decisions over such heated institutions.Download full
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Controversy About Abraham Lincoln's First Emancipation Assignment

The practice and institution of slavery had plagued the American continent since its earliest days. Despite the economic benefits of free labor, the country had been largely divided on the moral implications and complications of the institution of slavery. For generations, both citizens and members of the government had shown their moral and political opposition to the well engrained practice, "notwithstanding that slavery is one of the most corrupt and dangerous institutions in our country, and has been so considered, for many years, by many of our wisest and best statesmen, north and south." Many Northern abolitionists also called for Lincoln to pursue the end of slavery more vehemently. For years, Republican politicians and abolitionist activists had been calling for the end of the immoral institution of slavery, "The President expressed the belief that, without the Proclamation for which they had been clamoring, the Radicals would take the extreme step in Congress of withholding supplies for carrying on the war, leaving the whole land in anarchy." However, many believed that a Federal law or proclamation would be overstepping the boundaries of the Federal Government's role as outlined by Constitutional context. So for years, the American government could not see eye-to-eye with one another over the hotbed issue of slavery; "It marks, indeed, the sharp and abrupt beginning of the Great Divide."

Although Lincoln himself had long sought to weaken the inhumane institution of slavery within pre-Antebellum America, he had met strong initial resistance to such actions. He did not hold the Constitutional authority to abolish any activity previously allocated to the States. Lincoln was bound to his duties to uphold the statements of the Constitution. It was a commonly held belief that "Every man, who is a friend to our government as our forefathers gave it to us, and who holds the Constitution of this country sacred, must admit there is no power given in the Constitution of the United States." The founders of the original Constitution had originally left to each independent state to determine the legality of slavery. Congress had some affect in the number of slave states entering the United States, as seen in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which had limited the number of slave states my forcing one slave state to enter with one free state. However, Congress never truly won any other Federal control over slavery within the nation, "there is no power given in the Constitution for the Presidency or Congress to abolish a state institution, for they are sovereign states, and have a right to regulate their own internal affairs." Tensions between the North and South eventually erupted, and Lincoln faced the task of upholding the American constitution while at the same time trying to quell a rebellion. In the middle of a conflict to keep the Union together under the initial Constitution drafted by the early American Revolutionaries, Lincoln could in no way overstep the limitations of the Federal Government. Acting in such an unconstitutional manner in the middle of a rebellion would only lessen the reputation of the Northern leader in a time where no such chances could be made. One consequence of trumped up Federal power at the wrong moment could have driven Border States to secede themselves.

Therefore, Lincoln attempted to pass legislation through traditional methods, and acting in full accordance of Constitutional power. These attempts, however, were met ultimately with failure. Before the actual onslaught of the War, Lincoln had attempted to pass resolutions and compromises within the scope of the limited amount of power given to him in regards to the aspect of slavery as set in the Constitution. He had logically drafted legislation which would have compensated Southern plantation owners for their loss of property in order to free the slaves, while not putting the South at an extreme disadvantage. This was a reasonable solution that did not play favorites between the North and the South. The North wanted slavery abolished, and with this plan the South would not be robbed of their Constitutional right to own slaves as property. Through proper compensation, the South would have not lost property, but only the continuance of the massive free labor force which drove the Southern economy. In regards to this and other criticisms, Lincoln's plan was shot down. Eventually tensions mounted high enough to cause Southern states to secede from the Union, effectively splitting the nation in two. This ended any Federal attempt to end slavery until the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation which effectively ended the practice of slavery within the hostile Southern states who had left the Union to form the independent Confederate States.

With the inevitable onslaught of the Civil War, Lincoln finally had an opportunity to fully act on his desires to curb slavery and reunite the Union under the original government. "The President has thought best, for the safety of our country and the only means left to him, of restoring our nation, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing rebellion, to declare that persons held as slaves, in certain states and parts of states which are in open rebellion against the government, are forever free." In a direct action against the seceded Southern states, Lincoln proclaimed their treasured slaves free. Lincoln commences his plan strategically, in order to ensure the legality of his actions under such scrutiny. Along with his true supporters, Lincoln maintained support of potential Border States when he targeted Southern slaves, "We, the undersigned, hereby express to you our cordial approval of your late Proclamation of Prospective Emancipation, as a measure intrinsically right, and necessary to secure for the country a righteous and permanent piece." Lincoln had maintained support from the majority of the American public in his move to end slavery within the states which were revoking their rights within the union through secession. Despite the quiet military strategies within this move, for thousands of Americans, this was a moral issue which gained support, "we earnestly hope that it may be carried into full effect." With the support of the Northern Union, Lincoln went ahead and issued the first Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862. After much debate and controversy coming from Southern alliances, Lincoln continued to be supported by the American public. This then lead him to publish his final draft of the Proclamation in January of 1863. Both versions outlined hostile Southern states as war zone territories, and that he needed such strong Federal power to free the slaves in order to effectively but the Union back together in an attempt to resolve the split which had divided the nation into two separate and fighting countries.

In the midst of a rebellion previously unseen on American soil, "in a time of actual armed rebellion against the authority of the government of the United States," Lincoln took complete control with his evocation of his wartime power as commander-in-chief. Before the war, Lincoln was limited to what he could do with the institution of slavery, "But [...] there is a war power given to the commander-in-chief of the army and navy in extreme cases which would justify him in resorting to every means in his power for the salvation of our country." In this position, Lincoln issued his famous Proclamation which called for the end of slavery in strategically selected states. He made sure to prove his strength with this powerful move which effectively ended constitutional slavery within the context of major Southern economies dependent on the free labor, "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." With this Proclamation, Lincoln solidified the nature of the conflict with the South. This was a direct attack on the Confederate strength and livelihood. It has its purest base within Lincoln's own idea of morality, but was carried out in true military style.

While the nation was in a complete state of emergency, Lincoln was allowed to have supreme control over the army and navy as commander-in-chief. He… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Controversy About Abraham Lincoln's First Emancipation" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Controversy About Abraham Lincoln's First Emancipation.  (2008, June 17).  Retrieved January 16, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Controversy About Abraham Lincoln's First Emancipation."  17 June 2008.  Web.  16 January 2022. <>.

Chicago Style

"Controversy About Abraham Lincoln's First Emancipation."  June 17, 2008.  Accessed January 16, 2022.